Tom Palmer is currently writing a new children’s book. The setting? A museum – News Editor, Maria Demetriou was keen to find out more…
Tom Palmer is the author of the popular football-based children’s book series: Football Academy, Foul Play and The Squad as well as rugby fiction for children.
Tom has a passion for promoting reading – he is a Patron of Reading, a consultant for the National Literacy Trust and the Reading Agency and works on International reader development for the British Council. He has also written dyslexia-friendly books for publishers Puffin and Barrington Stoke.
He is currently the RAF Museum’s children’s writer-in-residence and in the lead-up to the RAFs centenary in 2018, he will be working with museum visitors to help them get the best out of their museum experience. It’s also the place he’s writing and researching his latest book.
Tell us a little about yourself and your experiences writing children’s stories?
I didn’t enjoy reading for pleasure when I was young, but my mum encouraged me to read using my passion for football – newspapers, magazines, books. She gradually taught me to love reading. That’s one of the two reasons that I am a writer. The other is libraries. Once I wanted to read, I read a lot. Without libraries I would never have had access to so many books of such variety.
Now I write for children. I write bearing in mind the big interests of some children. Football, rugby, ghosts, war… But, as well as that, I write about children. That’s not always easy as an adult, so I spend a lot of time in schools talking to children. I also have a daughter who is a big help. I also draw on memories of what my childhood was like. The feelings, the worries, the happiness…
Why is sport such an important theme for your books?
When I started writing I wasn’t confident about it. And you need confidence to write. You also need passion. One thing I was both confident and passionate about is sport. That’s why I chose to write about it – just like how I got into reading. Now I have more confidence, I am trying to write about other things. The history of the RAF for one.
How can parents and schools encourage children to read, particularly those having difficulty?
There are lots of things parents and schools can do to encourage children to read. And most schools and many parents do just that. The key is finding something that the child is interested in. You can’t just say reading is wonderful, why aren’t you doing it? You have to know what the child likes and find them the right website, newspaper, magazines, comic, book that suits them. Talk to them about it. There are lots of free resources that can help with that online, including some on my website.
You are currently a writer-in-residence at the RAF museum – please tell us what this involves?
We are trying to promote both the RAF Museums and reading for pleasure. Through events, activities, resources and the books that I will write, the aim is to excite aeroplane fans about reading for pleasure and for readers to find out about the RAF.
Opportunities and major historical anniversaries are arising all the time, such as World War I and the Battle of Britain. They give us a platform to push reading and history. Just as it is good to have a story about a pilot of a WWI plane to read to children when they are looking at that plane in the museum, we also want to invite children who have read a story about a WWI plane to see the actual plane.
Tell us about your new book and what inspired you to write it.
My new book is set RAF Museum, London. It is about a Sikh boy who sees the Sopwith Camel and becomes obsessed with the Sikh pilot Hardit Singh Malik. Then he has a Doctor Who-like time slip that finds him in aerial action during WWI. Visiting the museum, and talking to children about the museum and how they feel about it has helped me enormously.
Do you have a favourite museum to visit?
Do you have any tips on visiting museums with children?
When visiting museums with children, allow the child to be in charge. Go round at their pace. Do one of the museum trails or worksheets. It is a good way of getting into museums. Find the interactive bits. Find three things to look and get to grips with. You can’t look at everything. Just choose what interests the child. Always visit the cafe and shop. Keep some pocket money for them. And – if you can – buy something from the shop to read on your way home.
Click here to find out more about Tom and his work.